You can’t eat a flag so let’s try some figures

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Economics is described as ‘the dismal science’, which makes me feel better about being  bewildered by it most of the time. On the other hand, I have, with the help of the present Mrs Collins, managed to establish how much we take in by way of salaries  and  how much we send out in the way of spending. In other words like the vast majority of the population, we’re not total economic illiterates.

So let’s have a quick look at some figures for the funding we in the north of Ireland get from Britain. Because that’s usually the first thing that’s referred to if anyone mentions constitutional change.

£23.8 billion: that’s what most unionist politicians and commentators claim is given to us each year by Britain. But is it? There are those who say that the British take several large bites out of that apple before they send it across the Irish Sea.

£3.3 billion: that’s what the British government uses on the Bank of England Debt, on the Defence forces and sundry other domestic expenses, according to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) figures. Quite a big bite, wouldn’t you say?

£1.1 billion: that gets chomped off to help pay for the depreciation of British capital stock (that means things like government buildings, ports – all publicly owned assets.

£19.3 billion: that’s what the British Treasury says is spent on public services relevant to here.  However, £1.6 billion of this gets spent by Whitehall departments on areas the civil servants decide are relevant to here – the Cabinet Office and the Home Office as well as the NIO. Chomp chomp chomp.

£18.9 billion: that’s what’s allocated to us here via DEL – that’s confusespeak for  the Departmental Expenditure Limit  (the money the Executive spends) and money devoted to welfare payments here.

£17.7 billion (you’re going to like this): that’s how much public money the British Treasury says  is spent here in the north. What?! I hear you cry. Didn’t you just say the British Treasury put that sum at £19.3 billion? I did that thing. Is it confusing to now quote this figure? More self-contradictory, I’d say. On purpose or by accident? You choose.

By now you’ve probably got the core point this  blizzard of figures delivers:   to claim Britain passes   £23.8 billion our way annually is a statement so shaky it’s in danger of falling off the shelf. The more accurate figure is probably somewhere between £18- £19 billion.

OK, I think that’s quite enough for now. Next day we’ll look at how  much money we pass back to the British Treasury in taxes and levies of different kinds. For now the important point to remember is that the level of Britain’s largess to us is vague and almost certainly overestimated. Which means next time you hear a politician or anyone else trot out the £23.8 billion as the contents of the brown paper envelope Britain kindly gives each year, remember to curl your lip and say “Oh yeah?”

14 Responses to You can’t eat a flag so let’s try some figures

  1. Brian Mac Domhnaill July 2, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Good work, Jude.

    • Jude Collins July 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      Grma, Brian. It’s only people like yourself and myself appreciate the economic elegance of my piece. The rest are a bunch of economic illiterates…

  2. neill July 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Jude SF should ask you to join their economic team sure your are heads and shoulders above what they have already…..

    • Jude Collins July 2, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      I think not, neill ( though keep talkin’, keep talkin’…) If you’d been at a conference they held yesterday where various speakers from SF and from outside SF spoke about the economics of a UI, you’d almost certainly have ditched (with apologies to Wilfred Owen) the Old Lie that the Shinners are economic illiterates….Remember, that was Michael McDowell, lauding the Celtic Tiger and scoffing at GA for thinking otherwise. A couple of years later, M McD lost his seat, his party imploded, the Celtic Tiger died the death. A few years after that GA topped the poll in Louth and leads the biggest party in Ireland. Just because ‘economic illiterates’ keeps being repeated doesn’t make it so…

      • neill July 2, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

        Jude one word sums up SF`s economic abilities Syriza

        Its easy enough to run fuel laundering plants and supply narcotics not so easy to run economic policies.

        BTW isn’t it strange that SFs anti austerity policies are actually hurting the most weakest in society I hope you are listening to Radio Ulster’s stories about Special needs kids not having a fair crack of the whip but as long as the workshy are protected who cares?

        Btw what party looks after the education brief perhaps the minister might even have the guts to answer some questions about it

        • Jude Collins July 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

          Neill – first two lines are just abuse. Please – OK? I agree that austerity cuts are making life v difficult for an awful lot of people – but to say that’s all the Shinners’ fault is nothing short of risible. I’m not sure what you’re getting at about education. I do know M McG put a boot through a grossly unfair education system, since which time all the reactionary forces – including Catholics/nationalists – have lined up to lambast whoever is education minister. In my experience, J O’D is pretty capable of fielding all and any questions.

  3. Argenta July 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    Time for the present Mrs Collins to get her own blog!!!

  4. Perkin Warbeck July 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    As ‘Loot’ is the chosen tune of today, Esteemed Blogmeister, for the celebrated Collins Flute and Piccolo Fingering Chart, this set one thinking of how the term ‘Illiterate’ has endured, even in the matter of the dismal science of economics. (See last line above).

    How come ‘innumerate’ has never managed to get a fingerhold? Odd really, considering loot is something which is much more closely associated with the human digit, if not dignity, just as words are to do with the tongue and eye and ear, apart from Braille, of course.

    When the old duffer Polonius chanced upon Hamlet reading from a book, he asked:

    -What do you read, my lord?

    To which the irate reply in triplicate was:

    -Words, words, words.

    One suspects that Hamlet was an innumerate as it is clear he wasn’t preoccupied with the spreadsheets of Elsinore Enterprises PLC. So, nothing really to be ashamed of if one admits to being an innumerate.

    Its failure to become current, however, continues to baffle. After all, as innumerate and ‘sum’ share something in the line of an internal rhyme too it would have been as easy a mnemonic or aid to memory as illiterate even if the latter does almost contain a near internal rhyme for ’till’.

    And mnemonics are not to be mocked:witness the efficient practice once popular among the traffic Gardai of an Ulster County (Donegal, actually) of asking a suspected driver ‘under the influence’ to repeat after the Garda:

    -As magnanimous as Agamemnon McMenamin.

    If the driver in q. was able to repeat that phrase without getting his m and n’s confused he was allowed to go on his ‘merry’ way. (As this was pre-plastic bag if not brown envelope era, the practice might well not be still current).

    This is by way of a pre-amble to wondering just why the leprechaun word ‘lutalai’ never managed to insinuate itself into the Q’s English, same as, say, plawmaws, galore or smithereens. It ticks, does it not, all the boxes, to c. a phrase.

    Pronounced ‘lootawlee’ it means ‘crawler’.

    And even though we in the Free Southern Stateen have the, erm, luxury of boasting that unlike you lot in Norneverland, who are still tied to the apron strings of Mother Mainland our ‘fetters have been rent in twain’ this long year and past. We have long ago marked the card of Perfidious Alimony. (It’s always about the money).

    Which is not to say we ‘lootawleees’ have lost the ability to ‘crawl’ with the best of them. It’s just that we have changed the goalposts to embrace the continent of Eruo-pe. And the best don’t come much better than the current bossette of the IMF: Christine Lagarde herself.

    Just as we boast down here of being ‘illiterate in two languages’ what we tend not to say, however, for whaterver reason, is that we are ‘innumerate in two currencies – first, the punt and then, the Euro’.

    Which was the very why Madame Lagarde arrived in Dublin in January. Although to say ‘arrived in’ does not quite do the visit justice: more like ‘she descended upon Dublin’.For Madame Lagarde’s every appearance resembles nothing so much as that of the Dea ex Machina in the ‘Night of the Iguana’.

    (Thought: has there ever been a photo taken of she with Liz the Lizard and Camilla the Chameleon? If for no other reason, than to check out possible family resemblances).

    In her youth Mademoiselle Lagarde was a fixture on the French ladies’ synchronised swimming team. And so well did she and her host in Dublin – Michael Noonan, erm, bond, that is it is fair to speculate that the crawl was one of the strokes she was once mistress of. Enabling her to recognise a good crawler / lootawlee when she sees one.

    Michael Noonan is, of course, the Minister of Finance / Lootawlai in Chief of the FSS. It’s more like a vocation for him, in truth, rather than just a jab, oops, a job: he’s at it 24/7, morning, noon and night.

    She was well briefed -no not just by the House of Huit in Paris, though by that as well, but also by those beavering gremlins in the Dept of Foreign Affairs (the folk who put ‘Is feidir linn’ into the mouth of Barrak O’Bama) who gave these words for the delectation of Madame Lagarde in Dublin:

    As the Irish Dependent chortled at the time:

    ‘Madame Lagarde even quoted Ireland’s poster woman for misery: ‘Despite what Peig Sayers might say, the Irish economy does not have’ one foot in the grave and the other foot on the edge’, to the amusement of the audience at the conference in Dublin Conference’.

    Quelle hoot ! la meme Madame avec la hooter..

    Afterwards, the real Taoiseach and her host, An Lutalai in chief of the Free Southern Stateen, synchronised their movements and embarked upon a de rigeur pub crawl which ended up as these Foreign Afffairs sponsored gigs tend to do:in the haut couture ambiance of Doheny and Nesbitt’s , where the spit of politics coincides with the sawdust of economics.

    How one would have liked to be a fly on the wall of the smug snug of said designer scruff Oirish pub. Or, Indeed, any one of the millions (mill-ons, in Noonan-speak) of flies stuck on the traditional fly papers a dangling from the ceiling of D and H.

    And to overhear/ underhear Lagarde telling the Lootawlee how the Guards of Paris/ Gendarme had raided her apartment as far back as 2013 to do with ongoing investigations into L’Affaire Bernard Tapie, do to with a trifling sum of 400 mill-ons of euros.

    -Zey obviously mistook mon pad pour Minsky’s !

    Lagarde is reputed to have hooted. To which M. Noonan is dead certain to have said:

    -Tell me this, Christie baby, did ye not think now to breathalyse these wise guys in the Guards by turning the tables, Limerick style.

    -How do zoo mean?

    -Ya could have asked them to repeat after you: ‘As magnanimous as Agamemnon McMenamin.

    To conclude with another neologism which has swum into the ken of Perkie’s inner philologist of late: Dufnerring.

    It refers to the American pro golfer and double Major winner: Jason Dufner. All to do with his characteristic laid back disposition. Dufnering specifically refers to ‘a slumped sitting position with an expressionless face’.

    Nearer home Dufnerring is to be seen in the Irish Parliament / Dail Eireann whenever some one of an elfin sized mind and trolling disposition opts to speak (gasp) in leprechaun.

    Always suspected that behind her dudeen-smoking facade on the God-forsaken Blaskets the basket case known as the poster girl of Irish misery – Peig – had an inner economic innumerate trying to break free.

  5. Endgame July 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Judge. Conor Murphy was on Nolan recently and stated that the deficit in what is spent on the North and what is taken by the British is c£3bn. Quantify the billions that would be saved on ending the duplication of services and the additional tax revenue that would be generated from economic policy tailored to Ireland and not the South East of England and no Nationalist or Republican will ever loose the economic argument on the constitutional status of the North. SF will not look as clueless if they have these figures and no one will be saying they are economically illiterate.

  6. Endgame July 2, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    Jude not Judge 🙂

  7. PaulK July 2, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    Good stuff Jude, we need more of this. Working out how much is taken from here by the British Treasury will be a bit of a challenge though as they are a bit secretive about the figures to put it mildly.

    The likes of tax on wages, car tax and vat might be something that can be worked out but things like corporation tax are a different matter as the big British based stores like Tesco etc pay theirs centrally and don’t do regional breakdowns or so they claim.

    I reckon the reason the British won’t make the figures public is because they are making a profit from this place, but maybe I just have a suspicious mind.

    • Jude Collins July 2, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      Thank you Paul. However, you may have noticed that this question of money and figures attracts MUCH less interest than, um, flags for example…I’m sure there’s a moral in there somewhere…

  8. Jim Neeson July 3, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Good report, awaiting next day lesson.Yours in anticipation!!

    • Jude Collins July 3, 2015 at 9:58 am #

      It’s already up, Jim. I DO hope you’re paying attention…